Limitation of Trait Theory

Topics: Leadership, Management, Situational leadership theory Pages: 36 (12218 words) Published: February 27, 2012
Leadership can be defined as a process by which one individual influences others toward the attainment of group or organizational goals. Three points about the definition of leadership should be emphasized. First, leadership is a social influence process. Leadership cannot exist without a leader and one or more followers. Second, leadership elicits voluntary action on the part of followers. The voluntary nature of compliance separates leadership from other types of influence based on formal authority. Finally, leadership results in followers' behavior that is purposeful and goal-directed in some sort of organized setting. Many, although not all, studies of leadership focus on the nature of leadership in the workplace. Leadership should be distinguished from management. Management involves planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling, and a manager is someone who performs these functions. A manager has formal authority by virtue of his or her position or office. Leadership, by contrast, primarily deals with influence. A manager may or may not be an effective leader. A leader's ability to influence others may be based on a variety of factors other than his or her formal authority or position. In the sections that follow, the development of leadership studies and theories over time is briefly traced. Table 1 provides a summary of the major theoretical approaches. Historical Leadership Theories|

Leadership Theory| Time of Introduction| Major Tenets|
Trait Theories| 1930s| Individual characteristics of leaders are different than those of nonleaders.| Behavioral Theories| 1940s and 1950s| The behaviors of effective leaders are different than the behaviors of ineffective leaders. Two major classes of leader behavior are task-oriented behavior and relationship-oriented behavior.| Contingency Theories| 1960s and 1970s| Factors unique to each situation determine whether specific leader characteristics and behaviors will be effective.| Historical Leadership Theories|

Leadership Theory| Time of Introduction| Major Tenets|
Leader-Member Exchange| 1970s| Leaders from high-quality relationships with some subordinates but not others. The quality of leader-subordinates relationship affects numerous workplace outcomes.| Charismatic Leadership| 1970s and 1980s| Effective leaders inspire subordinates to commit themselves to goals by communicating a vision, displaying charismatic behavior, and setting a powerful personal example.| Substitutes foe Leadership| 1970s| Characteristics of the organization, task, and subordinates may substitute for or negate the effects of leadership behaviors.| HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT

Three main theoretical frameworks have dominated leadership research at different points in time. These included the trait approach (1930s and 1940s), the behavioral approach (1940s and 1950s), and the contingency or situational approach (1960s and 1970s). TRAIT APPROACH.

The scientific study of leadership began with a focus on the traits of effective leaders. The basic premise behind trait theory was that effective leaders are born, not made, thus the name sometimes applied to early versions of this idea, the "great man" theory. Many leadership studies based on this theoretical framework were conducted in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Leader trait research examined the physical, mental, and social characteristics of individuals. In general, these studies simply looked for significant associations between individual traits and measures of leadership effectiveness. Physical traits such as height, mental traits such as intelligence, and social traits such as personality attributes were all subjects of empirical research. The initial conclusion from studies of leader traits was that there were no universal traits that consistently separated effective leaders from other individuals. In an important review of the leadership literature published in 1948, Ralph Stogdill concluded that the...
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